As a young man Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) was already a politically committed artist with socially inspired and revolutionary ideas. He designed political prints in which he depicted the life of workers and the class struggle in a highly abstract black and white style. Arntz embraced the same ideals as the Austrian sociologist and economist Otto Neurath (1882-1945). Neurath believed that everyone – and particularly the ‘ordinary’ people – should be able to understand how society works but he realized that it was precisely this information on, for example, politics and the economy, demographics and industry that was often difficult to understand.
Arntz and Neurath started a very fruitful cooperation and developed a system in the 1920s and 1930s called ISOTYPE (International System Of Typographic Picture Education). In other words, numbers and text are clarified using a pictorial symbol. Ten thousand people can be portrayed using just one ‘man’ symbol; fifty thousand people are depicted using the same ‘man’ symbol but then five times. This was the start of modern visual statistics, a way of portraying complicated social, economic and political facts in a uniform manner.
Neurath developed the visual statistics and Arntz drew them. Initially, they did this in Vienna but with the advance of fascism they fled to The Hague in 1934 and continued their work there.